Offcuts: Shiraz benchmarking

I recently attended a very well-run tasting put on by Sommeliers Australia, which focused on Shiraz from various parts of the world. Lots of interesting wines and quite a few surprises. We tasted semi-blind: we knew what was in each bracket, but not the order in which wines were served.

Comparative tasting can be so cruel to wines yet is always such an education to the drinker. The notes below, on wines I found interesting for one reason or another, should be read in the context of the tasting environment, and are as true as I can make them to my impression of each wine before the reveal.

Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2010.
Floral and spiced, with bright red berry aromas and vanillan oak. In the mouth, medium bodied and freshly acidic, but lacking some fruit freshness, coming across as slightly simple and confected.

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz 2009.
Nice wine, this one. Apparent stalks, spice, meat, with relatively rich plum fruit. Structure is firm and satisfyingly tannic. The wine is long. One of the wilder wines of the tasting, not including some horse-drawn Rhônes.

Greenstone Shiraz 2009.
Quite a bright wine, with oak a tad obvious at first. The flavour profile shows red fruits and florals. Acid is firm and fresh. A more subdued style than I would expect from Heathcote.

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2010.
Much cooler smelling than the preceding wines, by which I mean it has a green streak, not unripe so much as succulent, floral and fleshy. This continues on the palate, where there are also blue fruits, all of which leads to a fresh after palate and finish.

Shaw and Smith Shiraz 2009.
Gentle and composed, this tastes slightly less youthful than its vintage suggests. Tannin structure is a highlight, and the wine is firm and long; overall it’s just beautifully balanced. Excellent wine.

Jim Barry The Armagh 2007.
A big red wine for big red wine lovers. Liqueur and fruit cake, firm and slightly disjointed acid, the whole is structured and weighty. I think this needs time and may never be an elegant wine (nor, perhaps, does it need to be).

Brokenwood Hunter Shiraz 2009.
Instantly identifiable as Hunter; it brought a smile to my face. Hunter Shiraz really is a world apart. A good example of the style, this shows typical turned earth and red berries, and some brown spice. Medium bodied with more acid than tannin, structurally.

Henschke Hill of Grace 2006.
Tough wine to enjoy in this lineup, as its flavours were quite different and noticeably tertiary, though the wine is anything but old. Very savoury, with a touch of dried fruit in amongst its red and black berries. Tannins are abundant and will benefit from more time to settle.

Clape Cornas 2006.
Very correct, with potpourri and red berries the dominant flavour components. Tannins powdery and a bit random, this wine lacks finesse in its palate structure. Nice wine, but others showed better on the day.

Rostaing La Landonne 2007.
Vindicates Tim Kirk’s efforts in a way, as this bears a clear stylistic relation to the Côte-Rôtie inspired Clonakilla. I thought the French wine showed better in this tasting. Nuanced in flavour and elegant in countenance, this wine tastes correct but is interesting for so many other reasons besides. My only niggle is a sense of bright, lifted simplicity of fruit through the after palate. Joyous to some, perhaps, but I would have preferred complexity from start to finish.

Cuilleron VDP des Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah 2010.
One of the more enjoyable wines of the tasting, if not the most sophisticated. A lovely, accessible flavour profile of dark fruits and spice. Decent complexity of flavour, its relative lack of structure the clearest indication of its humble intentions.

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